Trump's sway shows new limits inside GOP: The Note

Republicans used selective hearing when responding to Donald Trump in office.

November 16, 2021, 6:05 AM

The TAKE with Rick Klein

Many Republican elected officials developed selective hearing and Tweet-reading in choosing when and how to respond to Donald Trump when he was president.

It's a skill that remains on display in his post-presidency. For all the spot-on talk of how Republicans fear crossing Trump, signs of defiance or simply ignoring his statements have emerged anew inside the GOP.

President Joe Biden got to hold a bipartisan signing of the infrastructure bill Monday, where he thanked Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell for his leadership and where he received praise from a Republican senator.

Trump is churning out statements fuming at McConnell, with no apparent impact on McConnell's chances of continuing to lead his conference. Likewise, Trump's not-so-kind words about House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy -- as reported by ABC's Jonathan Karl, in his book out Tuesday -- are doing little to diminish his standing.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is coming out with his own book laying out a path for the GOP that starts with acknowledging that Trump lost. Christie has been talking up a Des Moines Register poll that found 61% of Iowa Republicans say they are more aligned with the party, compared with 26% who say they align primarily with Trump.

"Opinions are moving," Christie, an ABC News contributor, said on "The View" Monday.

The only GOP senator to speak at the White House Monday was Sen. Rob Portman, who is retiring. In the primary to replace Portman in Ohio -- as in countless other redder-state contests -- the competition for Trump's endorsement is intense.

The never-Trump wing of the GOP is not ascendant -- far from it. But at least around the edges, Republicans see a way to win that doesn't involve fealty to the former president.

The RUNDOWN with Averi Harper

Beto O'Rourke's entrance into the Texas gubernatorial race has risen the specter of past Democratic failures to turn the Lone Star State blue.

O'Rourke will undoubtedly benefit from name recognition given his unsuccessful runs for both president and U.S. Senate. That popularity, in tandem with controversial policies passed by a ruby red legislature and a Republican governor trying to combat his own dwindling favorability, could mean an influx of a massive sum of donor dollars not just from Texas but from all over the country.

PHOTO: Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks at the Texas Capitol building in Austin, May 8, 2021.
Former Rep. Beto O'Rourke speaks at the Texas Capitol building in Austin, May 8, 2021.
Ilana Panich-Linsman/The New York Times via Redux, FILE

Very recent history tells us that a well-known candidate and massive fundraising hauls don't mean a sure win. Remember Jaime Harrison South Carolina Senate run and his record-breaking $130 million war chest? He still lost his senate bid to Sen. Lindsey Graham by 10 points.

And as much as O'Rourke's popularity could benefit him on the campaign trail, it also could be a detriment. The former congressman's past statements might give Republicans ammunition to cast O'Rourke as out of step with Texan values.

"I don't think this will be much of a campaign if it's about me," said O'Rourke in an interview with Texas Monthly when asked about being a polarizing figure. "I think it really has to be about Texas. It has to be about all of us."

O'Rourke's platitude is right. His campaign should be about the wants and needs of Texans, but the jury is still out on whether he can get Texans to want him at the helm of the state.

The TIP with Alisa Wiersema

Democratic Sen. Patrick Leahy became the latest Senator to announce plans to retire ahead of the upcoming 2022 midterm cycle. Leahy -- the Senate's most senior member and the fifth-longest serving senator in history -- is unlikely to complicate the current 2022 Senate campaign trajectory given his home state of Vermont's deep blue roots.

Vermont Gov. Phil Scott, a Republican who was previously seen as a possible challenger for Leahy's seat, said he did not plan to run for Senate earlier this year. On Monday, he expressed gratitude for Leahy's tenure in a statement.

PHOTO: Sen. Patrick Leahy hugs his wife Marcelle Pomerleau at the conclusion of a news conference at the Vermont State House to announce he will not seek re-election, Nov. 15, 2021, in Montpelier, Vt.
Sen. Patrick Leahy hugs his wife Marcelle Pomerleau at the conclusion of a news conference at the Vermont State House to announce he will not seek re-election, Nov. 15, 2021, in Montpelier, Vt.
Mary Schwalm/AP

The news leaves just two Senators -- both Republicans -- who have yet to officially announce their campaign plans for the year ahead: Wisconsin's Ron Johnson and South Dakota's John Thune. According to the Wisconsin State Journal, the state's GOP party chair is confident Johnson, a strong supporter of former President Trump, will seek another term. Meanwhile Thune is still thought to be weighing his options after his dismissal of Trump's baseless claims of a stolen election drew ire from Trump as well as party members back home.

So far this year, five Senate Republicans announced plans to retire -- Richard Burr of North Carolina, Richard Shelby of Louisiana, Rob Portman of Ohio, Roy Blunt of Missouri and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

ONE MORE THING

As abortion returns to the Supreme Court's docket, majorities of Americans support maintaining Roe v. Wade, oppose states making it harder for abortion clinics to operate and see abortion primarily as a decision to be made by a woman and her doctor, not lawmakers.

THE PLAYLIST

ABC News' "Start Here" Podcast. Tuesday morning's episode features the dramatic closing arguments in the Kyle Rittenhouse trial. ABC News Senior National Correspondent Terry Moran takes us through what the jury heard, and what they'll consider before reaching a verdict. Then, ABC News contributor Dr. John Brownstein tells us how families can celebrate the holidays together and stay COVID-19 safe. And, New Hampshire social studies teacher Valerie Wolfson explains what it's like to teach U.S. history under a new law meant to avoid divisive subject matter. http://apple.co/2HPocUL

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

  • At 2:25 p.m. President Joe Biden delivers remarks from Woodstock, New Hampshire, touting the bipartisan infrastructure law.
  • Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks at the White House Tribal Nations Summit at 4:30 p.m.
  • In the morning, first lady Jill Biden delivers remarks to the members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation's Hiring Our Heroes Veteran Employment Advisory Council at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In the afternoon, the first lady, U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, Washington Mystics' Alysha Clark and Washington Wizards' Thomas Bryant visit a pediatric COVID-19 vaccination clinic at the Children's National THEARC.
  • Deputy press secretary Andrew Bates gaggles aboard Air Force One en route Manchester, New Hampshire.
  • At 10 a.m., the Senate Judiciary Committee holds an oversight hearing on the Department of Homeland Security.
  • At 10:30 a.m., House Democratic leaders hold a news conference, and the House Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change and the Subcommittee on Energy hold a hearing on supply chain solutions.
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